Trigger finger: causes, treatment and remedies

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Trigger finger is a condition in which a person's finger is locked or caught if he tries to straighten or bend it. Depending on the severity of the condition, doctors will recommend surgical treatments, medications or some home remedies.

Most people experience the trigger finger on the fourth (ring) or thumb fingers, but the condition can affect any of the fingers.

The trigger finger is the result of inflammation in or around the flexor tendons. Flexor tendons are responsible for moving the fingers.

More specifically, it occurs due to the inflammation of the "pulleys," which are bands of tissue that attach the finger bone to the flexor tendon. The inflammation of the pulleys affects the ability of the finger to move smoothly.

Read this article to learn about treatment options for trigger finger, as well as some of the causes and methods of prevention.

A person holding his finger because he has a trigger finger. Share on Pinterest
There are several non-surgical options to treat trigger finger.

A doctor will usually recommend treating trigger finger without surgery when a person begins to have problems with the condition. People can try most of these methods at home. Include:

Resting

Since the trigger finger can result from excessive use, simply resting your hand and your finger can often reduce symptoms. People may need to rest this part of the body for 1 to 2 weeks to see the results.

Take over-the-counter medications.

Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen, can help reduce pain and inflammation of the trigger finger.

Splinting

A trigger finger splint is usually wrapped around the palm and has a small cover for the lower part of the affected finger. This splint allows a person to bend the upper part of their finger without moving the part closest to the palm.

You can buy a splint for the trigger finger here.

Exercise the hand and finger.

Hand and finger exercises can stretch and strengthen the muscles around the tendons, which can help reduce stiffness and pain. However, it is important to avoid excessive exercise and discontinue any exercise that increases pain.

Apply ice

Applying a cloth-covered ice pack to the affected finger and palm for 10 to 15 minutes at a time can help reduce inflammation. A person should try to freeze his finger three to five times a day.

Using adaptive tools

Placing soft-grip protective covers over steering wheels, power tools, bicycle handles and even pens can help reduce the effects of friction and potentially decrease the inflammation that leads to the trigger of the finger.

Receive steroid injections

Doctors can inject corticosteroids around the tendon sheath into the affected finger. These medications can help reduce the incidence of pain in the trigger finger and limit movement impairment. Sometimes, a person may need two or three injections to experience symptom relief.

According to the findings of a retrospective study in The Journal of Hand Surgery, 39% of people with trigger finger reported long-term relief after a second or third trigger finger injection.

Those who received three injections for the trigger finger reported relief of their symptoms for an average of 407 days.

If a person tries non-surgical treatment methods but still experiences the trigger finger, a doctor will often recommend surgery. It is also likely that a doctor recommends surgery if a finger is permanently "trapped" or bends out of position.

Surgeons generally take one of two approaches to treat trigger finger. The first is to make a small incision in the palm of the hand to release the pulley that affects the movement of the fingers. The second is to insert a needle into the affected area to release the pulley.

There is some evidence that suggests that open surgery may reduce the incidence of pain and other symptoms to a greater extent than steroid injections. However, this research only reports on the first 6-12 months after surgery. Therefore, doctors still do not know if surgery provides long-term relief of the trigger finger.

Read more about what to expect from trigger finger surgery here.

Sometimes, a person develops the trigger finger for no known reason. Other times, one of the following factors may be responsible:

  • Certain medical conditions: Diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis are known contributors to trigger the finger.
  • Excessive use of the finger: People who work with their hands, especially those who perform strenuous activities using machinery or tools that require grip, have a higher risk of developing a trigger finger.
  • Contact friction: Sometimes, repeated use of power tools that vibrate in the hand or even hold the bicycle handles can cause the finger to activate.

A specific injury usually does not cause the trigger finger.

The condition most commonly affects people between 40 and 50, according to an article published in the magazine. Current comments on musculoskeletal medicine. The article also states that women are approximately six times more likely than men to experience trigger finger.

People with diabetes also have an increased risk of having a trigger finger. It is estimated that 10% of people with diabetes have a trigger finger compared to 2-3% of the general population.

Trigger finger symptoms usually include:

  • a visible or sensitive lump in the palm at the base of the finger
  • A finger that catches, blocks or makes noises with movement.
  • pain and discomfort when straightening or folding your finger

A person will often notice that their symptoms get worse after a period of using more hands. Symptoms are also usually more prominent in the morning.

Since the symptoms of the trigger finger are so distinctive, a doctor can usually diagnose the condition by performing a physical exam.

Exercises to stretch and strengthen the wrists and fingers can help people with a trigger finger and those with a history of the condition prevent and reduce pain. Some examples of exercises that can help prevent trigger finger include:

Wrist stretch

To stretch the wrists:

  • Place the palms together in front of the chest, feeling a gentle stretch on the wrists.
  • Slowly lower your palms to your belly button to increase the feeling of stretching.
  • Hold this position for 10 seconds, then release.

Curve of the fingertip

This exercise helps to bend the upper part of the finger joint. People can follow the steps below to do it:

  • Hold one hand at face level and place the opposite hand around the painful finger, just below the tip of the finger.
  • Slowly bend the fingertip in the upper joint, keeping the rest of the finger straight.
  • Repeat 10 times on each painful finger.

Middle joint curve

A person can try this exercise after folding the fingertip:

  • Hold the affected finger at the base of the finger joint and bend it in the middle part of the finger.
  • Slowly straighten your finger.
  • Repeat 10 times.

Although the above exercises may seem simple, they are very effective in helping a person relieve stress and tension in their fingers and hands.

Another option is to knead or mold clay or plasticine. This activity is also an effective way to stretch your hand and fingers. A person should repeat these exercises three to five times a day whenever possible.

The trigger finger can be painful and prevent a person from doing everyday activities.

If a person thinks they may have a finger on the trigger, they should consult a doctor for treatment recommendations before their condition worsens.

Home treatment methods are often very effective and exercise can help prevent the condition. Doctors will recommend surgery only in severe cases.

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